Memo to the Media: Libby Outrage is Not Confined to "the Left"

Here we go again. No sooner had President Bush commuted the sentence of Prisoner 28301-016 ("Cheney's Cheney" to his pals), and the champagne begun to flow at Mary Matalin's house, than the media launched into its usual, knee-jerk attempt to analyze the response to the decision in terms of right vs left.

Airwaves and news pages were quickly filled with talk of "outrage from the left," "criticism from the left," and how the commutation "will further drive the left crazy."

It's positively Pavlovian. Ring the issue bell, and reporters start to drool about right vs left. Even when the facts show that the Libby commutation -- like the war in Iraq, like the war on drugs, like global warming -- is not an issue that splits along right/left lines.

In a SurveyUSA poll taken immediately after the commutation was announced, 60 percent of those surveyed said they disagreed with the decision, including 35 percent of conservatives. And, in an earlier Time magazine/SRBI poll, 72 percent said they would disapprove of a pardon. So unless "the left" has recently had an incredible growth spurt, a lot of people on the so-called "right" are feeling outraged too.

And if this was so clearly a right/left issue, how come only Tom Tancredo and Sam Brownback offered an unequivocal "Yes" during the New Hampshire debate when asked if they would pardon Libby (the other candidates either said "No," or took a wait-and-see stance)?

Is it really that hard for the media to address this issue without the left/right crutch? Or, if journalists and pundits insist on hobbling along using that musty terminology, can they at least do a little research and see that there are plenty on "the right" who aren't exchanging high-fives over Libby dodging the prison bullet?

All they'd have to do is click on this post from conservative blogger Patterico, who said "You do the crime, you do the time... This wasn't right." (Double entendre intended) Or they could have checked out Orin Kerr, a conservative law blogger who used to clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy (and we saw how liberal he is this Supreme Court term). Kerr wrote: "I find Bush's action very troubling because of the obvious special treatment Libby received."

And that's the point. Bush's imperial chutzpah -- commuting Libby without even consulting with the Justice Department -- isn't a matter of right vs left, it's a matter of right vs wrong.

Anyone who believes in the rule of law, who believes that cronyism is wrong, who believes that all citizens should "stand before the bar of justice as equals." and who believes that juries should be overruled only in the most extraordinary cases, knows that this decision was flat wrong. (You know, someone like George Bush, who, as Governor of Texas, said: "I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own, unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware, or evidence that the trial was somehow unfair." And none of those exceptions applied in this case.)

Can someone please alert the media: not every issue fits your cherished right/left paradigm. Indeed, that way of looking at the world is becoming less and less relevant -- and more and more absurd.